OPINION AND REFLECTIONS ON PROF. JOHN JOSEPH’S
The Modern Assyrians of the Middle East
Encounters with Western Christian Missions, Archaeologists, & Colonial Powers
This book is a revised version of Dr. John Joseph's "The Nestorians and Their Muslim Neighbors, a study of Western influence on their relations", originally published by Princeton University Press in 1961. The author's scholarly research and description of the history of Modern Assyrians enlightened this Assyrian reader. It is not my intention to embark on a task of blind criticism nor it is an attempt to undermine the noble efforts of the author. However, it is hard to suppress ones nationalistic sentiments whenever our true identity is at stake. Nonetheless, I would like to shed some light on what it is believed to be of interest to most Assyrian readers, i.e., the linkage, or lack there of, of the Modern Assyrians to the Ancient Assyrians. While acknowledging the author's vast knowledge in Middle Eastern studies and dare not challenge the historical facts and hypothesis in regard to the origin of modern Assyrians, I am prepared to engage into an intellectual debate on our national identity. There are other Assyrian scholars including Dr. Edward Y. Odisho who have come out in the defense of the linkage in a scholarly and analytical manner. "To be the native of a land for more than three millennia and yet to have the authenticity of one's nativity questioned or even denied is the most flagrant violation of one's human rights", (Dr. Odisho's presentation at Melammu Symposia, Helsinki 2001). Dr. Odisho eloquently describes his presentation, "…… this study was a practice in scientific research aimed at making judgements that are fairer and more objective…".
This reader’s opinion in the defense of the linkage is expressed in a philosophical rather than a scientific manner. It is a simplistic and instinctive reflection of thoughts. With humbleness and a sense of humility, I must confess, it is that of an innocent 9-year-old child whose unadulterated mind was not yet influenced by the diverging views on this debate. The question posed by a prominent American missionary several decades ago "How could you prove that you are an Assyrian?" (Refer to this reader's editorial "Assyrians..Hope and Despair", Nineveh Magazine Volume 2, No. 1 January - February 1979):
What nationality are you? The missionary asked. "Assyrian!" The boy replied. "Assyrian? Those ancient people became extinct thousands of years ago. To believe your claim, you must provide me with proof" the missionary pulled his passport and pointed to his identity as an American and said, "This is my proof. What is yours?". "I am Assyrian because my father told me so. You know my father never lies" the child exploded, his eyes gleaming with confidence. "Who told your father that he was Assyrian" the missionary asked. "His father" and "His Grandfather told his father" the boy went on and on repeating those words."
One must not neglect, though, to praise the author for the depth of his research and the wealth of information regarding our history as depicted through out the book. Specifically, his in-depth and concerted effort on addressing the horrible conditions endured by Assyrians in the early part of the twentieth century. However, further elaboration with greater details on the Assyrian Exodus during their migration from the Plains of Urmia to Baquba, Iraq would have done more justice to those who suffered and particularly those who perished during that terrible ordeal. The Author did, however, mention this tragic exodus briefly yet eloquently, (109) "the story of how thousands of these refugees suffered and died; how they were reluctantly received but humanely treated and brought to Iraq by the British has often been related. One reason why they were transported to Iraq was the famine conditions in Persia, where thousands of Persians and Kurds starved. That is the ugly story of war when man's natural enemies, cold, hunger, disease and fear combine with religious hatred and blind passion to overwhelm the dictates of humanity and conscience."
Moreover, The "Assyrian Genocide" by the Ottomans’ could have been addressed more thoroughly and in the same manner that the Simile Massacre was described. The author’s analysis and commentary on the socioeconomic, political & and humanitarian aspect of the Assyrians as indigenous people, is superb. His distinction between the Assyrians as Eastern Christians and their Muslim neighbors is expressed delicately, (222) "While the Eastern Christians and their Muslim neighbors have a great deal in common, religious differences still set them apart. Members of each faith have their own distinctive religious custom and tradition; they conduct their marriage ceremonies differently, celebrate different feast and holidays, fast and worship differently, and more importantly what each religious community holds holy is different. Because of the important role that religion plays in the social and political life of the people, religious differences between them, strengthening their self awareness and sense of ethnic identity, this being true especially among the members of the minority"
In the preface writes the author" I am grateful to Dr. Spindler for accepting also a revised title for the book. The reasons for choosing the name Nestorians in the past are given in the original preface reproduced below. The more controversial name "Modern Asyrians" is now used because of its greater unambiguity. To my surprise, there were a number of people, among them specialists on modern Middle Eastern history, who, while familiar with the "Nestorians" and with the modern "Assyrians," were still unaware that "Nestorians" of my original title referred to very same people who since the turn of the century came to be commonly called "Assyrians" in English.
A justification, not mentioned by the author, for changing the name from Nestorian to Modern Assyrian, is the fact that the church had never identified itself as a "Nestorian Church" but rather, called itself by its true identity "The Church of the East". Furthermore, this is a denominational identity and not of neither ethnicity nor nationality. The author quote from a speech by The Archbishop of the Assyrian Archdiocese of Lebanon, Mar Narasai de Baz (254) "the Assyrian Church of the East, is not a 'Nestorian' Church. Though Nestorius, the patriarch of Constantinople, is honored and venerated in her thought and liturgical action, the Church of the East was established in Mesopotamia during the apostolic age centuries before the birth of Nestorius".
"Yet another proof" writes the author (22) "that the Aramiac speaking Christians are descendents of the ancient Assyrians argues that the language of the two people are the same. Layard wrote that the Nestorians spoke "the language of their"Assyrian' ancestors, an opinion expressed by Layard's Aramiac-speaking assistant, Hormuzd Rassam: that the ancient Assyrians "Always spoke the Aramiac language" and they "still do" We have just seen that the ancient Assyrians did not always speak Aramiac; their mother tongue was Akkadian, the language of the famed cuneiform tablets and monument that Rassam himself helped excavate."
The author seems to insinuate lack of proof for linkage of modern to ancient Assyrians by emphasizing to what Hormuzd Rassam wrote, "Assyrians, Always spoke the Aramiac language," rather than what Layard wrote? Layard did not use the word "always", because it was obvious to him that Assyrians adopted the Aramiac language and they had spoken their mother tongue before. Furthermore, the author had concurred with that the Assyrians spoke entirely Aramiac in the years preceding their downfall and that they had forgot their mother tongue, "Unlike the Assyrians, the Persians did not forget their own mother tongue" (13).
The author's emphasis on disproving the belief of Modern Assyrians that "Suraye" and "Aturaye" are synonymous (17-21), is an apparent indication of his advocacy of the "lack of linkage" hypothesis. Equating "Suraye" to "Syrian" from the geographical Syria further undermines the linkage hypothesis. Based upon this logic, the Modern Assyrians who called themselves "Suraye" from time immemorial are actually "Syrians" from the geographical "Syria". This reader favors the opposing logic that the modern days Assyrians are from "Geographical Ancient Assyria" or the "Plains of Ninveveh". The hypothesis presented by the author failed to convince this reader that Assyrians of Hakkari and those living in the various villages of the Mosul plain (Modern days Chaldeans) are geographically from any other place but the Geographic Ancient Assyria. The Assyrians also spoke Aramaic, as did the Syrians from Syria. The Syrians from Syria were Arabized, therefore, forgot their mother tongue of Aramaic. The "Suraye" synonymous to "Aturaye" from the 'Plains of Nineveh" continue till this day to speak Aramaic. I am of the opinion that the author's study, despite its scholarly and impressive presentation, failed to disprove the linkage of Modern Assyrians to the Ancient Assyrians.
It is apparent that the author, (27-29) Assyrian survival after the fall, had attempted to perform a balancing act of the many different views on linkage issue. Citing Dr. Edward Y. Odisho and Simo Parpola advocating linkage in counter to the views of many western historians, most notably Sidney Smith. (28-29) Modern Assyrian writers usually cite a statement that Assyriologist Sidney allegedly made early in the twentieth century--namely, that the Assyrians disappeared "immediately" and "vanished" after the fall of Nineveh in 612 B.C. To "disprove" Smith, they cite another Assyriaologist, W.W. Tarn, who noted that for centuries after the fall of their empire, Assyrian "survivors" perpetuated old Assyrian names at various places on the site of ancient Ashur. Edward Y. Odisho refer to "a few" historians who "talk about continuation of the (Assyrian) identity" until establishment of Christianity in geographical Assyria, some eight centuries after the fall of the Assyrian empire. (Footnote 102 page 29), The author quote Simo Parpola, that the Assyrian empire had, in the final analysis, "never been destroyed at all but had just changed ownership: first to Babylonian and Median dynasties, and then to a Persian one." The Assyrian Empire "continued to live on despite the fact that the Assyrian themselves were no longer in control of it." The author, did however, express his own conclusion in a general manner open for different interpretations and perhaps a justified criticism. (31-32) "The people who today call themselves Assyrians are, strictly speaking, members of a cultural and religious group, molded together into a minority by ties of a common language and, until the nineteenth century, a common church membership which, until the birth of the modern nation-state in Middle east, was the strongest tie among people."
This book could be characterized as an elaborate study and an outstanding textbook in Middle Eastern affairs and Islam in relation to the Western cultures, Christianity and modern day world politics. (223) "but in the eyes of the majority, Western presence was foreign and oppressive. It took another World War (1939-1945) before the British and French rule came to and end, but hardly had they departed from the scene, when the Arabs were faced with a new and more permanent enemy in the Jewish state of Israel, created in the midst of the Arab-Muslim world by the departing Western Powers, joined by the United States of America. For the entire second half of the twentieth century Israel would symbolize not only Palestinian homelessness but also the powerlessness and humiliation of millions of Arabs and non-Arab Muslims (see Marin Kramer, "the Muslim Middle East in the 21st Century)…….Combined with other factors and grievances of the region, the festering Palestinian problem and the triumph of Islam in Iran, gave rise in the region to an Islamic renewal and new self-assertiveness. Among those joined the movement were the young and educated classes; as leader of the next generation, they were disillusioned with the ideologies and strategies that had failed to work out a solution for their parents (see James r. Kind "The Theme of Alienation in contemporary Middle Eastern Literature"). They longed for something different, but familiar, with native roots; uniting them was the mistrust of the West." One could only hope that the leaders and the general public of our beloved nation, the United States of America, would read this book, get an insight and be enlightened with the treasure of knowledge that the author presents in this area of constant conflicts. Acquiring knowledge in the true but rather sad history of the middle east as demonstrated in this book, would certainly enrich the policy makers of the roots and causes of terrorism by Islamic extremists so they may be better prepared to deal with it effectively.
There are many zealous, but well-intentioned Assyrian nationalists, who have been critical of the author's writings. While the published work of the author has been unfairly portrayed as a betrayal of our Assyrian heritage, I must regrettably admit that the author's controversial views regarding the linkage issue open itself to valid challenges. For those of us who are passionately convinced that we are descendents of ancient Assyrians, this may not be the proper book of history, nor the author, is the ideal historian, to further prove our conviction of the linkage. However, Assyrians should learn from, be proud and respectful of our author, who has written such a scholarly book of history even though they may disagree with his conclusions. Our national identity as it has been engrained in us from time immemorial, is deeply rooted in the soul of every Assyrian. The Author's presentation of hypothesis disproving the linkage would not change the perception of the Modern Assyrians who are passionately convinced of their ethnicity. It is obvious, however, that the author’s foresight is far more reaching to the world beyond that of the Assyrian readers.
In conclusion, I could not resist the urge but to draw from my poetic mind a handful of philosophical words, paint a picture of abstract and meditate:
May God bless the author with another hundred years of healthy and prosperous life.
May God give him a relentless wisdom so he may record the "yet to unfold" history of "future Assyrians".
May God lead him to the path of discovery where the Assyrians of ancient, modern and future are one of the same "Assyrian".
Sargon R. Michael
[ Professor John Joseph is a Louis Audenreid Professor of History, Emeritus at Franklin and Marshall College, Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Mr. Michael's article will also appear in the next issue of Nineveh Magazine. For a review of Prof. Joseph’s book in Zinda Magazine visit:
CHRISTMAS FINDS IRAQ'S CHRISTIANS IN SOMBER MOOD
of Agence France-Presse; Report by Farouk Choukri
Hundreds of Christians attended mass in the capital's 50-odd churches, but they were evidently not in festive spirits.
"In all churches we prayed for the peace which Christ preached
2,000 years ago to reign in our region, notably in Iraq," Bishop
Emmanuel Delli of the Chaldean church.
"We need peace more than at any time in the past," Delli said. "Our children are getting killed in Palestine and elsewhere, and dangers are lurking for our country."
In his last pre-Christmas sermon, Father Mushtaq Zanbaqa of the Virgin Mary Church in Baghdad said it was painful that Christmas "should come once again with Iraqis living in deprivation and lacking medicines as a result of the embargo.
"The church is doing its utmost to ease the suffering of those worst hit" by the sanctions," he said.
In a Christmas message to the country's Christians on Monday night, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein said the United States and Israel were dragging the world into "catastrophes.
"What is happening in Palestine and Afghanistan and the many other developments will drag humanity toward catastrophes and tragedies which will have consequences for the whole world that only God can know," he said.
"This Christmas is coming at a time when terrible crimes are being committed, as the whole world can see, here (in Iraq) ... where the people have suffered for 11 years under an unjust embargo."
These hardships were "accompanied by the continued military aggression of the United States and Britain at the urging of the detestable Zionist entity (Israel)," Saddam said.
Yet, many Iraqi Christian families have tried to have a quasi- normal Christmas.
Christmas trees have introduced a note of festivity in the homes of those who could afford them, as prices ranging from 5,000 dinars (2.5 dollars) to 60,000 dinars (30 dollars) are prohibitive for most Iraqis.
The ministry of religious affairs Sunday organized a ceremony during which gifts offered by Saddam were distributed to Christian charities and orphanages.
Religious Affairs Minister Abdul Monem Ahmad Saleh told representatives of various Christian communities the Iraqi leader wished them "glory and success."
This year's Christmas comes at a time when Iraq faces the prospect of another US military strike.
Newsweek magazine reported in its latest edition, published Monday, that top US military officials were studying the possibility of invading Iraq from both the north and the south in order to topple the Iraqi leader.
Under heavy political pressure, the US Joint Chiefs of Staff have been looking at a study that suggests deploying 50,000 US troops on Iraq's southern border and another 50,000 on its northern border, it said.
US President George W. Bush and his national security team have decided that Saddam has to go, said the magazine, quoting unidentified US officials.
"The question is not if the United States is going to hit Iraq, the question is when," the report quoted a senior US envoy in the Middle East as saying.
POLITICS OF CHRISTMAS IN NORTH IRAQ
(ZNDA: Kirkuk) On December 28 reporter Jacob Shir of the Khabat weekly Arabic newspaper interviewed Archbishop of Arbil Chaldean Parish regarding his visit to the Vatican and meeting his Holiness Pope John Paul II. The Archbishop made the following statement: "I have reported to the Pope that by virtue of the Kurdistan Regional Government everyone's rights are granted. The Pope is pleased about the unity observed in the region of Kurdistan."
Next day, a meeting between the Relation's Bureau of the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Chaldean Cultural Group was held in North Iraq. Prior to this meeting on the occasion of Christmas and the Christian New Year, a high-level delegation of Kurdistan Islamic Yekgirtu Party visited the Assyrian Democratic Movement on 22 December and the Virgin Mary Church in Sulaymaniya.
Jalal Talabani, head of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan also congratulated the Christians in Iraq as he was visiting Virgin Mary Church in Sulaymaniya. During his visits to the Mar Yosip Church in Ain Kawa, the Assyrian Democratic Movement headquarters, the Chaldean Cultural organization headquarters and the Bet-Nahrain Democratic Party headquarters the leader of the Turkoman Front party congratulated the Christians on the occasion of Christmas.
A Kurdistan Democratic Party delegation, representing Masoud Barazani, offered their congratulations to the Christian inhabitants of North Iraq during a visit to the Mar Giwargis Church in the Shoresh District and to the headquarters of the Assyrians Democratic Movement, the Bet-Nahrain Democratic Party and the Chaldean Cultural Group.
CNN VIDEO: IRAQI CHRISTIANS CELEBRATE CHRISTMAS DESPITE SANCTIONS
CNN: Live at Daybreak; Reporting for CNN: Rym Brahimi
(ZNDA: Baghdad) On Christmas Eve, members of the dwindling Iraqi Christian community gather at Baghdad's various churches to attend mass. Since the Gulf War, Iraqis say religious celebrations for both Muslims and Christians have not been as effective as they once were because of the sanctions. This Christmas there's also something else to worry about: The U.S. may target Iraq next in the war against terrorism.
RYM BRAHIMI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: On Christmas Eve, members of the dwindling Iraqi Christian community gather at Baghdad's various churches to attend mass. Since the Gulf War, Iraqis say religious celebrations for both Muslims and Christians have not been as effective as they once were because of the sanctions. This Christmas there's also something else to worry about.
SOLOMON WARDUNI, AUXILIARY CHALDEAN BISHOP: Our people sure is not happy now because we are hearing every day that they want to bombard Iraq. They want to do that - why? Why to do that? There is no need to do all of these things.
BRAHIMI: The majority of Christians in Iraq are Chaldeans. They follow an ancient Eastern Catholic rite performed in Chaldean, Arabic and Aramaic, the language said to have been spoken by Jesus.
Other churches here follow a Syrian - Syriac Orthodox and Armenian rite. In this recently built Chaldean church, the faithful begin their Christmas mass by lighting a fire, a symbol, they tell us of the fire lit to warm the manger where Jesus was born.
About three to four percent of Iraq's population is Christians. It lives side by side with the country's Muslims and is left to worship however it pleases. There are no incidents, but most Christians keep a low profile and are reluctant to discuss their concerns on camera.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): If the Americans are saying they want to bomb us, isn't there something to worry about?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Surely the American people feel for the Iraqi people and doesn't want to see us in this situation.
BRAHIMI (on camera): Privately, many Iraqi Christians acknowledge they were afraid at first that events following the September 11th attacks would put them in an awkward position. Nothing happened, they say, but statements by accused terrorist Osama bin Laden about waging a war against Christians and infidels or the use by U.S. President Bush of the word "crusade" made them feel uncomfortable. (voice-over): So far, however, they seem to have no reason to fear. The Iraqi leadership's party, the Ba'ath, adheres to secularist values, and President Saddam Hussein himself has made clear he would not tolerate any attempt to divide Iraqis by using religion.
On Sunday, Iraqi TV broadcast the annual ceremony in which the minister of religious affairs hands over gifts of money from the president to Christian charities. Public displays of support to the Christians that appear to reassure the clerics. Reassuring the people, it seems, is another issue. Of great concern to the Chaldean Church, since the Gulf War, is the increasing number of youth that leave Iraq, mainly because of the economic situation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These sanctions are causing very bad situations for our people. So the youth has no hope.
BRAHIMI: Out of the one million estimated number of Chaldeans in the world, only about 600,000 still live in Iraq so most Christian youths here try to join their families abroad. In the meantime, as the church works on how to make them want to stay, their prayers this Christmas remains those of most Iraqis regardless of their faith.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): We pray for our country, for sanctions to be lifted. Lifting of sanctions is the most important thing for us. Rym Brahimi, CNN, Baghdad.
EDUCATOR RABBIE GIWARGIS BENYAMIN ARSANIS
In 1941 Rabbie Giwargis served in the Soviet Army against the German attacks and in the same year entered the Institute of Orientalistic in Moscow and completed his studies in 1950. In 1954 he began teaching Farsi language in the International Institute of Foreign Relations (the Diplomatic school). Soon after he became a specialist in the Persian literature and its dialects as a professor. He published several books and monographs on Persian language.
Rabbie Giwargis, for many years, taught the Assyrian Language for Assyrians of Russia, Armenia, and Georgia. In 1973, 1988, 1992 he published three volumes of the Modern Assyrian Language (Assyrian elementary book)". Hundreds of Assyrian students and educators owe their knowledge of the Assyrian language to Rabbie Giwargis' works and instructions. Rabbie Giwargis is survived by two daughters: Suzanna and Ekaterina. They both live in Moscow.
[ Rabbie Giwargis' short biography was provided by Mr. Vasili Shoumanov of Chicago. Mr. Shoumanov was born in St-Petersburg, Russia and graduated from St-Petersburg University with a degree as "Orientalist". In the Middle East Department of this university he studied Arabic, Hebrew, and Classical Syriac). Mr. Shoumanov is also credited with the establishment of the first Assyrian club, "Semiramis", in the former Soviet Union in 1986. In 1990 he was the editor-in-chief of "Homeland" magazine. In 1993 he published a Russian-Assyrian dictionary. Since 1996 Mr. Shoumanov has been living in Chicago and working at the Ashurbanipal Library of the Assyrian Universal Alliance Foundation. Find out more about Mr. Shoumanov's recent book "Assyrians of Chicago" on the Zinda Magazine home page.]
MAR DINKHA TO ATTEND WORLD DAY OF PRAYER IN ITALY
Courtesy of the Commission on Inter-church Relations and Education Development of the Church of the East & ZENIT News Agency, Vatican
(ZNDA: Rome) According to His Grace Mar Bawai Soro, Bishop of the Church of the East, His Holiness Mar Dinkha IV has accepted an invitation from the Catholic Church to attend a World Day of Prayer, to pray with His Holiness Pope John Paul II, the Bishop of Rome, and with other patriarchs and world religious leaders, on Thursday; 24 January 2002, in Assisi (Italy). In the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the Pope invited religious leaders around the world to participate in a meeting "to pray to overcome clashes and promote authentic peace. John Paul II and leaders of world religions will travel by train to Assisi on January 24 to take part in the day of prayer for peace
His Holiness will arrive in Rome on Monday; 21 January 2002. He shall be received at the Airport as the guest of the Holy See and will stay at the Vatican for the duration of his visit to Rome. This is the fourth official visit of His Holiness to Italy since 1978.
All participants will take the train in the Vatican, which has a small station built in 1933 by Pope Pius XI. The train will have only three or four compartments to accommodate the religious leaders accompanying the Pope.
Upon arrival in Assisi, His Holiness Mar Dinkha IV, the Pope and other
guests will attend a ceremony in the
To avoid any suggestion of syncretism, the Holy See is emphasizing that this will not be a meeting for joint prayer.
The participants will meet again in front of the basilica in the early afternoon to confirm together their commitment to peace. They will all return to the Vatican in the afternoon.
A private meeting between the two heads of churches, Their Holiness Mar Dinkha IV and Pope John Paul II, is also scheduled on Friday; 25 January. The Patriarch and Pope are expected during their encounter to discuss issues related to the general situation of Christian communities around the world and the progress of ongoing relation between the Catholic Church and the Assyrian Church of the East. In addition to this, other meetings and visitations with various Vatican dignitaries and members of the Roman Curia have also been planned.
While still in Rome, His Holiness Mar Dinkha will attend the doctoral
defense, graduation and dinner reception of His Grace Bishop Mar Bawai
Soro at the Saint Thomas Pontifical University in Rome on Wednesday; January
His Holiness departs Rome on Saturday 26 January; 2002. On his way back, he is scheduled to pay a pastoral visit to the Assyrian Church of the East community in London, England.
MASS TO HONOR SLAIN CHALDEAN RETAILERS
Courtesy of Detroit Free Press; Report by Alexa Capeloto
(ZNDA: Detroit) Friends and relatives of Joe and Jack Yono, Chaldean retailers killed in an apparent armed robbery in Detroit on Dec. 14, gathered for a special mass in Southfield, Michigan on December 31 to honor the father and son.
The Associated Food Dealers of Michigan organized the mass in part to promote better understanding among police and retail owners, and to eradicate violence in local businesses.
According to the group, more than 300 Chaldeans have been killed in metro area retail robberies since 1970.
The mass took place for 6:30 p.m. at Our Lady of Chaldeans Cathedral (Mother of God Parish), 25603 Berg Road.
Courtesy of the Miami Herald; based on a report by Andres Viglucci & Alfonso Chardy
(ZNDA: Miami) Three Iraqi Chaldean-Assyrians came to Miami seeking political asylum and expecting an understanding reception from U.S. authorities. Instead, they ran smack into the government's domestic war on terrorism.
All three have been held by the Immigration and Naturalization Service for months, as the agency - already leery about releasing any man with an Arabic-sounding name in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks - appears to be extending the policy to women, at least in Florida.
The detention of the women, who under normal circumstances likely would
have been freed by now, is the latest element in a strict new regimen
of sharpened scrutiny and prolonged detention for foreign nationals from
the Middle East and South Asia. The government is holding more than 500
men who were detained after the attacks, most of them on immigration violations.
In at least one other local case, that of three Iraqi men detained when they tried to visit a friend working on a cruise ship at the Port of Miami-Dade, the INS used special post-Sept. 11 powers to close usually open hearings in immigration court, even though the FBI has publicly cleared the trio of any connection to terrorism.
The government alleges the men, who were legally in the country as refugees, were trying to smuggle in their friend, a charge they deny.
For one of the two detained women, 46-year-old Chaldean Christian, the new regimen has meant nearly four months of separation from her husband and imprisonment at a Miami-Dade County jail, where she is subjected to body searches and handcuffing for trips to court.
Her husband is being held at Krome.
Because she speaks Arabic, the only person at the Turner Guilford Knight Correctional Center with whom she can communicate is a distant cousin of her husband, 24, also a Chaldean, who arrived in Miami a month ago.
She, too, is being held by the Immigration and Naturalization Service, which uses the jail to house detained women.
The women were hoping to join relatives in Michigan.
The younger woman's sister is a U.S. citizen and her mother a permanent U.S. resident.
Both say they were in trouble with Saddam Hussein's regime - the first woman because her 51-year-old husband, a veteran of the Iran-Iraq war, refused an order to rejoin the military; the younger woman, a university student in computer science, because she refused to join Hussein's Baath political party as most college students are expected to.
The women also said they faced discrimination as Christians in a majority-Muslim country.
Neither of the women speaks much English.
They weep frequently and say in a phone interview that they don't understand why they are being treated harshly when they fled an oppressive regime hostile to the United States.
They complain they get bad food and little sleep at the jail because of noise and frequent checks of their cells at night.
"We are very scared," said the younger woman, speaking through an interpreter, who asked that her name not be published for fear of retaliation against relatives back home.
"I thought the American authorities would help me. We were shocked at this treatment. We never dreamt of being in jail. We are not criminals."
During their detention, they say, they have seen dozens of women of other nationalities released from INS detention after just a few days - normal agency practice when it comes to asylum-seekers.
Both of the Iraqi women and the husband weeks ago cleared the first hurdle to asylum, an interview in which they persuaded an INS officer they have a "credible fear" of persecution at home.
INS policy is to release asylum-seekers who show credible fear while an immigration court makes a final determination in the case, a process that can take a year or more.
"In cases where an arriving alien asserts an asylum claim, INS policy favors release from custody if the alien is found to have a credible fear of persecution," said Joseph Greene, the INS's acting deputy executive associate commissioner for operations, speaking Wednesday before the U.S. House Subcommittee on Immigration.
The INS publicly insists it has not singled out Middle Easterners or Arabs for special treatment.
The acting INS district director for Florida, John Bulger, declined a request for an interview on his office's detention policies, even after The Herald provided, at his request, a letter outlining the subject.
Agency policy is not to discuss individual cases.
But federal officials concede that INS officers and agents who deal with aliens have been instructed not to let any Middle Easterner or South Asian out if they are not fully satisfied that they are clean - even if it takes months.
``There is a heightened state of awareness that each person seeking entry into the United States needs to be checked out as thoroughly as possible, so people who arrive without proper documents or without documents are detained while their stories are checked out, and if we need to hold them while we are checking them out, then we are going to hold them,'' one official familiar with INS practice said.
Another federal official familiar with immigration enforcement said: "No one is going to let someone go unless they feel absolutely sure the person they are releasing is not going to go out the next day and hijack a plane."
The INS is also making it harder for journalists to visit Middle Eastern and other detainees since the attacks.
The Iraqi women were interviewed by phone because an INS spokesman in Miami, Rodney Germain, said it would take at least two weeks to respond to a Herald request to visit them.
Before Sept. 11, such requests were handled by the local office and routinely approved within days.
Now the requests must be approved at the regional level and in Washington.
Immigration lawyers and advocates, while conceding the need for stepped-up security measures after the attacks, say the INS is needlessly jailing people who pose no threat.
"I can understand that policy for my Islamic clients, even if I don't agree with it," said Wilfredo Allen, a Miami immigration attorney representing the younger Iraqi, noting that Christian women are unlikely to join a jihad against the United States.
"I can't understand it for the Iraqi Christians. It's nonsensical."
The agency is releasing at least some Middle Easterners.
Last week, a male Iraqi asylum-seeker was released from Krome.
The agency has also been willing to release an Iranian woman who came to South Florida seeking asylum with her two teenage sons.
All three, converts to Christianity, have been detained since September -the mother and her 17-year-old son at a guarded motel the INS uses to confine families, and her 18-year-old son at Krome.
The agency set bond for the family, a total of $15,000, but they have been unable to come up with the money so far.
Advocates say it's rare for a family to be held so long at the motel.
``Most people go very quickly through the hotel,'' said Charu Newhouse Al-Sahli, detention advocacy coordinator at the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center in Miami.
Immigrant rights groups say they don't know of other cases of Middle Eastern women held for inordinately long periods by the INS.
But at least two other women were held for several weeks in one of the oddest episodes after the attacks. The two women were among 11 young Israeli Jews picked up in Ohio, apparently because tipsters and agents may have mistaken their Sephardic names for Arabic ones.
Their lawyer, David Leopold, said one of the first questions that federal agents asked his surprised clients is whether they were Muslim.
The Israelis were charged with working illegally, put into closed court proceedings reserved for national security cases and denied bond.
Nine, including the women, were eventually freed under a promise to leave the country.
Two others agreed to leave but are being held until their departure.
Leopold said one of the women, 23, was "terrified" to find herself in a jail cell. He blamed what he called INS's "institutional incapacity" for the apparent mix-up.
"It raises serious questions about the quality of the investigation," he said.
OBITUARY: ESTHER D. OSHANA
(ZNDA: New Britain) Esther "Nana" Daniel Oshana of Osterville, Massachusetts, formerly of New Britain, died Thursday in Hyannis, Massachusetts. She was 89.
She was born in Iran and was a former New Britain resident. She lived in Aspen, Colorado, for 15 years before moving to Cape Cod in 1997. She was formerly employed at General Electric in New Britain.
She is survived by a daughter, Kathy Oshana of Osterville, Massachusetts; a son, Zaya Oshana of Southington; a brother, Elisha Daniel of Albuquerque, New Mexico.; four grandchildren; seven great-grandchildren and several nieces and nephews. Her husband, Zaya Oshana, died previously.
A graveside service was held Saturday at 1:30 p.m. in St. Thomas Cemetery, Barbour Road, New Britain. Donations may be made to St. Thomas Church of the East, Assyrian, Cabot Street, New Britain, CT 06053.
OBITUARY: TAFT EMERSON ARMANDROFF
(ZNDA: New Britain) Taft Emerson Armandroff of Southington, Connecticut passed away on December 21 at Bradley Memorial Hospital. Taft is survived by his devoted wife of 47 years, Semiramis Semmie Moorad Armandroff. Also surviving are son, Taft Jr., his wife, Elizabeth and their daughter, Olivia of Tucson, Arizona; son, Dean and his wife, Brooks of Alexandria, Virginia; and sisters, Lillie Mae Gillespie of Metairie, Lousiana, Marilyn Wehr of Bastrop, Texas and Jackie Zilker of Houston, Texas. Taft was born in Cincinnati, Ohio and was educated at University of Cincinnati and University of Missouri. He served in the Ohio National Guard and the U.S. Army during World War II. He was employed by General Electric Company, starting in Cincinnati in 1950, transferring to Plainville in 1954, and retiring in 1990 as a systems analyst. He was a member, former deacon, and usher of South Church. He served as Treasurer of the Erwin Home, a residence for women under the auspices of South Church. Taft participated in the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program and volunteered as a computer coach at the Calendar House. He played in the Calendar House senior golf league and the senior bowling league. He enjoyed travel and participating in Elderhostel programs. A memorial service was held at South Church, corner of Main Street and Arch Street, New Britain on Saturday, December 29 at 1 p.m. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in his memory to South Church Assyrian Memorial Parlor Fund, 90 Main Street, New Britain, CT 06051; or The George Bray Cancer Center, New Britain General Hospital, 100 Grand Street, New Britain, CT 06052.
OBITUARY: JOHN SARGIS
(ZNDA: Chicago) John Sargis, 77, beloved son of the late Michael and Lillian Sargis; loving brother of Ruth (the late Slim) Daniel and the late Eli M. Sargis; fond uncle of Connie, Mike and Michele.
BETH MARDUTHO PUBLISHES MARDU (DECEMBER 2001 ISSUE)
(ZNDA: New Jersey) Mardu, the official quarterly newsletter of Beth Mardutho Syriac Institute, has recently been published. The December 2001 contains the following stories:
1. Syriac Under Windows XP.
2. Duke University Joins the Syriac Digital Library Project.
4. Hugoye in ATLAS.
5. eBethArke: Syriac Digital Library Headline News.
6. Launching the Deir al-Suryan Inscriptions Database Project.
7. Gifts and Donations to Beth Mardutho.
8. Welcoming the New Friends of Beth Mardutho.
9. Syriac in the World Wide Web Consortium's XML Proposal.
Beth Mardutho mails its newsletter to the "Friends of Beth Mardutho" free of charge. To join the friends online, please visit www.bethmardutho.org (click on 'Membership'), or write to firstname.lastname@example.org. (Address: 46 Orris Ave., Piscataway, NJ 08854. Fax: 732-699-0342.)
FUNDRAISING DINNER FOR PETE DAGHER IN CHICAGO
The Assyrian Community Proudly Hosts a Fundraising Dinner in Honor of Pete Dagher
Candidate for the 5th Congressional District of Illinois
Please join the Assyrian community in welcoming and honoring Pete Dagher, first generation American who is of Assyrian and Armenian heritage. Pete is running for the 5th Congressional District of Illinois and your support is appreciated.
Bring your family and friends. All are welcome.
Date: Sunday, January 20, 2002
Time: 6:00 p.m.
Location: Edens Banquet Hall (Assyrian Social Club)
6313 N. Pulaski, Chicago, IL 60646; (773) 478-8808
For ticket information, please contact:
Nadia E. Joseph, Assyrian Academic Society: email@example.com
Nadia Mirza, Assyrian Academic Society: firstname.lastname@example.org
Joseph Tamraz, Assyrian American National Federation: email@example.com
Omar Villafranca, Dagher For Congress, Press Secretary: firstname.lastname@example.org
Assyrians For Pete Dagher
SAN JOSE ASSYRIANS FOR MAYOR RON GONZALES
The city of San Jose's mayor, Ron Gonzales, is seeking re-election for a second term. Members of the Assyrian community in the Silicon Valley played a key role in getting him elected the first time. He is asking for our support again. Let us show our support once again in 2002.
Assyrians For Ron Gonzales
EDITOR IN CHIEF
Before I proceed further, I do request from the decent Arab people, men and women, and there are many and/or are the majority who were and are victims of such dictatorship regimes themselves and experienced persecution in a way and another for long time, to realize and recognize the intention of this Article. Besides, I do express my love and respect for such decent body of said Arab people who are rich with caring and understanding.
The efforts are put into effect by assigning some individuals or groups, make use of the national unawareness and to use the various Arab media as a base to poison the minds of people with the Arabic dictatorship made virus, excuse my wording, in addition to poison the brain of our children by teaching them false and re-routed history stuffed with ill intentions. This happened at a situation were they have the upper hand to do it, those ill individuals who are abusing the power and being unfair to the solid history of the Assyrian Nation and to other nations as well. Such groups will have no problem, when their power grows at certain period of time, they will claim the same in some other place and people, also by referring to some references! Such groups and regimes caused major setback to the normal and majority of Arab people and prevented them from enjoying better life and dignity for long time.
The latest article of Mr. Ishmael Muhammad published in the Arabic language "Al-Jazeera" web site (http://www.aljazeera.net/in-depth/Iraq_file/2001/2/2-21-.htm) were he claimed that the Assyrians at the stages of Sumerians, Akadians and Babylonians were Arabs and by enjoying confidence he backed up by some references at the end, and that was the good part of it. It is very essential to have very good and solid references, however if the dear reader examine and discover the references, he/she will find most of them were made by the current Iraqi regime with the help of Ahmad Sosa, besides some books with unknown authors and published date and place.
Going back to Mr. Ishmael Muhammad, he said ( The Sumerians shared to build that history with the mismaric letters, while Arab shared with their experience in Irrigation and Agriculture engineering and the industry of various types of tools and the internal and external commerce ), to begin with he distinguished between Sumerians and Arabs in his sentence, however Arabs or other people, in the Arabian peninsula, never had the opportunity to learn Irrigation and Agricultural Engineering at the time of the Assyrian periods, for the reason that the Arabian land is a desert type and they were barely finding a well to drink some water and let their animals enjoy that after a long desert and hot weather journey, and that basically is nothing to do with Arab people but the case is the desert land. Therefore, Mr. Ishmael Muhammad put himself into a very critical spot were he is obligated to answer some easy questions tough to answer.
The truth and the only truth comes with the Cuneiform Clay Tablets discoveries and the history written by the Assyrians in their Ancient Cities. Such evidences were ignored totally, because it would not serve their ill intentions. But Abdul Wahab Al-Kayali, Shaker Mustafa and the rest possible cheep books with unnamed authors and Iraqi governmental documents were taken very serious and truer than the Cuneiform Clay Tablets written by the True Assyrian People at their time.
I hope Mr. Ishmael Muhammad will think carefully on this subject and awake to the reality of respecting other nations like Assyrians, especially when he is enjoying all the privileges of living status on the Assyrian Soils.
Article by Mar Narsai de Baz, Bishop of the Church of the East - Lebanon
& Syria (in Arabic)
Gabriele Yonan's Recent Lectures in Sweden
for Assyrians in Södertälje, Sweden
Public Radio's Recent Segment on "Aleppo Music" - All Things
STEPHANIE NERI: COOK OF THE YEAR 2001
(ZNDA: Chicago) Chicago Daily Herald has selected Ms. Stepahnie Neri of Chicago as one of its Cooks of the Year 2001. It writes:
Stephanie Neri may be an Assyrian without a country, but she is a woman with a sparkling sense of humor, a gift for laughter and a freezer full of butter. She gets that last part from her grandmother, who used to fill an entire shopping cart with butter when it went on sale at her local Happy Foods grocery store. The store limit on butter meant nothing to grandma, who could sweet talk the manager into cases and cases of the stuff.
Today, Stephanie cheerfully carries on her family's artery- clogging tradition with a recipe for Nazookis, a cross between a cookie and bread with a butter and flour filling. It calls for - please remain calm - eight sticks of butter (that's two pounds) and three gallons of sour cream. All right, it's only 16 ounces of sour cream, but the effect is the same.
"It can clog any artery," says Stephanie, who remains mystifyingly slender.
"I never had weight problems because you can only eat a little bit and you get riched out."
Stephanie also takes comfort in grandma's assurance that Assyrians never get cancer, they die quickly, of heart attacks.
8 cups flour
In a large mixing bowl place flour. Make a well in the center of the flour, put in dry yeast, salt, vanilla, sour cream and butter. Blend well with pastry blender and then with hands until all the flour and butter are blended and the dough is smooth. Refrigerate overnight.
Next day, preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Form 10 balls the size of an orange out of the dough. For the filling, mix the flour, sugar, butter and vanilla with a pastry blender until crumbly. Roll one ball in the shape of a rectangle 7- or 8-inches by 10- to 12-inches. Dough should be as thin as a pie crust.
Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of filling. Roll up like a small jelly roll. Cut into eight to 10 pieces with a corrugated garnishing tool (if available). Brush tops with beaten egg. Place on greased cookie sheet about an inch apart. Continue to do the same for each ball. Bake for 30-35 minutes.
ANNUAL GALA VIP DINNER
Rabee Jacob A. Miraziz
is the principal of the Assyrian School in Sydney. Was born in the city
of Kirkuk in Iraq, and completed his school studies in Baghdad. He migrated
to Australia in 1973, and commenced his nationalistic activities by teaching
his mother language in 1976 at the Assyrian School of the Assyrian Australian
Association (AAA), continuously for 22 years, 11 of them as a teacher
and another 11 as the principal.
Rabee Jacob has been actively involved in the following Assyrian community
Ancient Assyrians left behind a list covering 261 years of kings and important events. Under King Assur-dan III there was an eclipse of the sun, which modern astronomers can place in 763 B.C. Given that foothold, scholars can fix a time line for Assyrian rulers from 649 B.C. back to 901.
Miramax Films released In the bedroom, starring Tom Wilkinson, Sissy Spacek and Marisa Tomei. Ms. Spacek’s character, Ruth, wears a necklace that is a replica of the type worn by ancient Assyrians to ward off “the evil eye”. In the Bedroom is written and directed by Todd Field.
In the Bedroom Official Site: http://www.miramaxhighlights.com/inthebedroom/index.html
January 11, 1842
Mar Youkhana, an Assyrian bishop, arrives in America as the first Assyrian-Iranian to visit the United States.
Share your local events with Zinda readers. Email us or send fax to: 408-918-9201
CANADIAN SOCIETY FOR SYRIAC STUDIES LECTURE
La Societe Canadienne des Etudes Syriaques
"Women in Syriac Christian Tradition"
University of Toronto
[Zinda Magazine is a proud Corporate Sponsor of CSSS.]
FUNDRAISING DINNER FOR PETE DAGHER
Candidate for the 5th Congressional District of Illinois
Time: 6:00 p.m.
For ticket information, please contact:
CANADIAN SOCIETY FOR SYRIAC STUDIES LECTURE
La Societe Canadienne des Etudes Syriaques
A Roman Desert Castle to A Christian Metropolis"
University of Toronto
[Zinda Magazine is a proud Corporate Sponsor of CSSS.]
March 17, 2002
AGATHA CHRISTI & THE ORIENT
Revealing Agatha Christie the archaeologist and how her discoveries in the Near East influenced her detective writing.
The hitherto unknown interests and talents of the great crime writer are told through archaeological finds from the sites on which she worked with her husband Max Mallowan at Ur, Nineveh and Nimrud. Important objects from these sites in the Museum's collections are combined with archives, photographs, and films made by Agatha Christie herself.
Personal memorabilia and souvenirs of travel in a more leisurely age are only some of the exhibits which range from first editions of those novels inspired by her other life to a sleeping compartment from the Orient Express, from a lethal 1930s hypodermic syringe to a priceless first millennium ivory of a man being mauled to death
Admissions £7, Concessions £3.50
West Wing Exhibition Gallery Room 28
Third International Congress on the Archaeology of the Ancient Near East
Purpose: To promote cooperation and information exchange between archaeologists working in the ancient Near East, from the eastern Medi-terranean to Iran and from Anatolia to Arabia, and from prehistoric times to Alexander the Great.
Contact: Victoria de Caste, Secretariat,
CANADIAN SOCIETY FOR SYRIAC STUDIES LECTURE
La Societe Canadienne des Etudes Syriaques
"Bar-Hebraeus & His Time:
The Syriac Renaissance & the Challenge of a New Reality"
University of Toronto
[Zinda Magazine is a proud Corporate Sponsor of CSSS.]
July 1-4, 2002
48TH RENCONTRE ASSYRIOLOGIQUE INTERNATIONALE
"Ethnicity in Ancient Mesopotamia"
Registration Form: http://www.let.leidenuniv.nl/rencontre/mailform.html
Zindamagazine would like to thank:
Mar Bawai Soro
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